“The feeling that we call ‘I’ seems to define our point of view in every moment, and it also provides an anchor for popular beliefs about souls and freedom of will. And yet this feeling, however imperturbable it may appear at present, can be altered, interrupted, or entirely abolished.”
“I believe that we should do the Genograms of our heroes, our governmental leaders, and the theorists whose teachings we follow to better understand their strengths and limitations, just as we would benefit from examining the Genograms of the authors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), who have described the supposed characteristics of mental illness.”
In homeopathy, as is the case with psychotherapy, we are taught that causation, constitution, and the totality of symptoms are three critical factors. David Little describes how Baron Von Boenninghausen in the early years of homeopathy stressed the importance of understanding the who, what, why, with what and, when modes of a person’s narrative. He also emphasizes the need to understand causation and how imbalance in ones’ make-up opens the door to the need for change (Little, 2001; 2014). He further describes how remedies have a multi-polar nature having been tested on a wide variety of people. Constitution and temperament is what we view first in the patient. This helps contextualize symptoms that are similar and places them in the perspective.
How one feels, radiates and adapts are further clues to the ways of gathering information and handling their evolving contexts. Family legacy and life cycle narration play a part in this determination as well. Learned communication and somatic foundation are the basis upon which to confirm essential patterns that define striking extraordinary, unusual and outstanding symptoms.
Sustaining change deals with a deeper understanding of how our patients construct their world. Reconciling subjective and objective experience is one of the ongoing challenges within our human fallibility. Carl Jung believed that the subjective part gets its information from dreams, symbols of inherent instincts, ancestral connections and universal archetypes. “The collective unconscious communicates from the timeless space that is the source of all religions, myths, visions, dreams, fantasies, altered states, fairy tales and folk stories.” It is a holding place for all the experiences of humanity and a means to wholeness. As ignorance can misguide us, the grasping of one’s potential as well as constraints can enlighten us. “When we confront the mythological core of our experience it offers transcendental meaningfulness of our lives” (Little, 2014; Silvestri, 2002).
The objective psyche is an energetic field of experience lived through these archetypes. Edward Whitmont, who himself was a psychiatrist and homeopath further elaborates that psychological happenings are processed and manifested in the language of symbols. This is a demonstration of the “purposeful direction of movement that expands that which is deficient and balances what is exaggerated.” This natural movement toward wholeness is what Jung called the “self.” If this is the case, “Then all psychosomatic phenomena can be given meaning, intent, and provide information about the state of the unconscious if interpreted symbolically” (Silvestri 2002, 2008). It can also be the source for articulating one’s core grievance story or “tale of woe” which perpetuates the “fight or flight” part of our sympathetic nervous system,
The collective unconsciousness and the self are information sources that go much beyond personal experiences. The blend of the conscious and unconscious dialogue is constant and the symbols that arise in consequent dreams are the language of the unconsciousness, and could be a medium of inspiration and art. It is this process that can also be the driving force behind psychosomatic problems. Being out of “sync” is an indication of imbalance. Although we never see the invisible pure form of the archetypal thing, we can strive to harmonize with its manifested pattern and essence (Storr, 1983). The simultaneous awareness of these connections, the “Ah ha” experiences are the spontaneous automatic reactions that do not follow the rules of the rational mind. Jane Cicchetti (2001), in an interview, said that “Jung felt that symbols were the best possible expression of a reality and wholeness that is greater than the intellect can conceive; that symbols point the way to a greater reality.” She also points out that when we open our minds to this reality, we are able to make connections and see the wholeness of a homeopathic case more readily.” Being aware of how symbols give us understanding of life’s paradoxes and potential creativity is the basis for moving toward wholeness. Homeopathic remedies resonate with natures plan and they can be identified and matched with the emerging articulated “self.”
After practicing systemic psychotherapy (an ecological approach that works with interpersonal relationships) and homeopathy (similarly a holistic healing process) for many years, I have found that the most reliable information for developing a successful therapeutic plan comes from understanding someone’s temperament and how they view themselves and others.
To help assess and reperatorize symptoms within the framework of temperament and constitution I use the Genogram (McGoldrick, 2011). The Genogram is a transgenerational and psychological family tree that depicts an individual’s relationships, family patterns and influences (See for images and symbols).Factual information about illnesses etc., help determine miasmatic patterns and legacy. Parental traits and communication (i.e. open, closed, nurturing, controlling, abusive etc.) from one’s own narrative allow for an understanding of how one was raised and reared relevant to developing communication and cultural traits. Constant recording of sensations, modalities, locations, and related ailments will produce an ongoing narrative and openings for uncovering striking and unique symptoms applicable to determining homeopathic remedies and psychotherapy directions.
The Genogram is a tangible and visual means to map large amounts of information in a concise manner and framework. At a glance, one can see the complexity of the family context and its’ connections to past and current emotional issues. It allows a clear introduction and means to explore the patient’s life patterns. It provides a sense of history and psychological attributes relevant for counseling and homeopathic assessments. The Genogram portrays the ongoing evolutionary journey and interconnections to larger contexts of education, employment, race, culture, ethnicity, class, religion, health and many other structures and issues.
Using the Genogram framework, one can construct a preliminary psychological family tree that depicts family legacy. The following questions can prime the narrative that will lead to defining one’s temperament and constitution.
- How do your family members think about one another? (Look for characteristics that are brought up i.e. the loudmouth, spendthrift, softie, etc.) This provides articulation of joys and pains. Patterns of enmeshment and cut-offs can be the “not-well-since” beginnings of past and present illnesses, aggravations, resentments and grievances, leading to symptoms found relevant to homeopathic treatment.
- Who was named for whom in your family? (Look for how names reveal roles, hidden meanings, historic connections and psychological patterns.)
- Were there coincidences between the births of family members and moves or migrations, illnesses or death, changes in family finances, etc.?
- How much did the family conform to gender stereotypes of their culture and era? Which members did not conform, how were they viewed and how did the family demonstrate flexibility (or inflexibility)?
- How did the family deal with rituals, stress, rules, leisure, beliefs, and explaining or telling stories of death, money, education, betrayal etc.?
- What kind of relationships did one’s parents have with their parents? How did you relate to your parents: the good, the bad, any grievances, life cycle and developmental issues, etc.?
- How did you relate to your siblings? How were siblings expected to behave? What roles did you and your siblings have in the family?
- What are the patterns of couples’ relationships in your family? Divorce, power struggles, gender roles, employment, attraction, strengths, weaknesses, and how did this effect your development?
When we look at our family legacy and the energy that sustains it, we can gain insights and help patients make positive changes in their lives. We can also identify and learn from the interactive patterns of the family of origin, some of which may have hindered or supported self –development. There is a mystical energy in our family systems. This demonstrates how we are truly baked from our family energies, yet we are in truth all half-baked with room to grow and evolve.
There is an opportunity to differentiate from past hurts and not let our history control us, yet we all have to go home to reaffirm what are our strengths and resources. This can be found in our experiences relevant to our ethnicity, class, race, gender and culture. Here are some questions to stimulate understanding the power of legacy.
In what ways has your legacy taught you to deal with conflict and the paradoxes of life?
What spiritual message do you get from your Genogram?
What emotional and physical sensations did you experience in your different life cycles i.e. childhood, adolescents, early adulthood etc?
How did you and your family deal with trauma?
What unique, unusual and extraordinary sensations do you recall growing up?